Creative Pluralism

Creative Pluralism

I like to lecture people. I do. I like to pretend that I’m wise and and that my opinion is something respected. So this is what I’m going to do: I’m going to write an article and post it. This is what you’re going to do: You’re going to sit there and read it, dammit. My advice has value!

*clears throat*

Something that I find to be common among the Preachers of the Internet is that when giving writing advice, they give pretty much useless advice. Why? Because they give advice on how to be creative.

This doesn’t work.

The creative process is a highly individualized process. I am, in a nutshell, a creative pluralist. Do you usually have everything planned out before you write? Or is it something you’re going to do because you received advice like that? I mean, if you like to spend a whole lot of time plotting it before hand, and that makes it easier for you, great.

But if you have to FORCE yourself to plot, well… I would suggest you try writing by the seat of your pants. Take me, for instance. I do a little bit of a mix. I spent about a year and a half crafting the mythos for something that I write on occasion (Pillar of Heaven, for interested parties) before I had any idea of where I was going with it.  I would come up with plots every now and then, but none of them held any weight. But when I came up with a basic premise for the plot- the beginning and the end- with a few twists, I pretty much stopped plotting. I got a basic idea of what I was going to do with a few characters, who they were and whatnot, but my background-work stopped there. Ever since, I’ve been writing as I go along, with a general direction kept in mind, going off on whatever tangents and creating entirely new characters because, dammit, I want to! (Of course, make sure that you have an idea of what purpose they’ll serve, too.)

Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. When you get everything set up before hand, it’s a game of dominoes, essentially, except that you have to make sure you keep writing. It tends to produce a neater, more cohesive narrative. Prematurely polished, you might say. Writer’s Block is more of a “I don’t want to write”/”I don’t know how to write this particular part” than a “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing”. Of course, it contains elements of “I don’t know what to write”/”I don’t know how to write this particular part” as well.

On the other hand, writing by the seat of your pants can produce a whole lot of dead ends. What you do is you go off on tangents and introduce new elements and characters and locales as you go along. Yes, that’ll make the writing process a sort of excitingly-spontaneous, “I don’t even know what’s happening next!” thing. And, on the other hand, it’ll make polishing a chore. There will be a LOT of fat you’ll have to trim, asides and tangents that didn’t work out. But quite a few people don’t like to work that way, meticulously working everything out in advance.

At the risk of sounding/being hypocritical, I think it’s best to TRY to retain an idea of where you’re going. If you lack direction, it’s probably going to show and your work will come out as a jumbled mess. So, if you can, understand what your work is, and try to figure out how it’s going to end, and then try to get there. The journey does not beat the destination, nor does the destination render the journey without meaning. Both are equally important.

Moral of the story? When writing, do your own thing. Do whatever you can to get the writing on paper. Because if you’ve succeeded in writing something and finishing it, you’re already better than most of us, so bully for you. No, you don’t have to do it the way sponsored by the author of this article. If I said you did, I’d be defeating my own argument (a somewhat counter-productive activity, in my esteemed opinion). If you DO do it the way I do it, don’t be an ass. Don’t say that your way is the one, true way because when it comes to bringing forth creation from the bubbling primordial soup of the mind, the only way is the way that works for the individual. And that goes for you too, Guy-Who-Can’t-Seize-The-Moment.

An alternative explanation for why I like to write this way is possibly because I’m just incredibly lazy. Knowing myself, this is not an unlikely theory. This blog article? Pulled out of my rather large butt.

I bid you pleasant mental images, reader.

  • Crouching Moron

    I am not a big outliner–dating back to when I first learned how to in English class, I just didn’t care for it. Prettymuch any critical information necessary to write a story I can carry about in my head. But that’s JUST the STORY. Just the PLOT. (Do bb codes work in this text editor? I’d hate to have to keep using caps.) Plot is pretty easy to not outline because, just so long as you have the very vaguest idea where you’re going, you get there. Just read the road signs once in a while, check which way the wind is blowing, etc.

    Characters on the other hand I find require some amount of deliberate design (i.e., character sheets). And then you have to draw up maps (assuming a fantasy setting). Assuming you’re planning on writing a 200k novel, there’s a lot more that you have to sort than just plotting, which is why I think this article is true, but not terribly helpful.

    (Also, the domino game assumes that things, especially characters, are totally incapable of organic growth over the course of a story. Or that you the author can’t change and want to see a different outcome in things. Locking yourself in to an absolute approach might work, maybe, if many other things fall into place, but I’m more comfortable assuming that I live in a chaotic system and that rigidity leads to picking shards up off the floor.)

    But anyway, I don’t think your system of plotting makes you lazy, Bud.

    In summary: yaddayaddayaddayadda

  • Beth

    This article is so Heidegger. BUT WHAT IS BEING?

    I think most advice is somewhat superficial asides from WRITE A LOT READ A LOT (I know it’s overstated, but it’s *really* true. Especially if you read inside a certain genre, it is very helpful to read outside of it, and think about prose styles and attitudes to character themselves). Really, I think these internet articles should really act as starting points and supplements, and should allow the writer to branch outwards.